Leave it on the court: The Crossover

Alexander, Kwame. The Crossover. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 237 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN  978-0-544-10771-7; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-48985-855-9


TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes


Genre: Sports Novel/Novel in Verse


Part of a series? No, but Alexander’s Booked is similar in style and content for readers who want more like this book.


Plot Summary:

Josh (Filthy McNasty) and Jordan (JB) Bell are twins and stars of their middle school basketball team. Their father Chuck Bell, former basketball star, helps them prepare for their goals of eventually playing on all-star college teams. When Josh loses a bet, his bald-headed brother gets to cut off a precious lock from Josh’s hair. Joking around, JB doesn’t pay attention to his cutting and ends up chopping off five locks, forcing Josh to get his hair cut short. Deprived of his prized hair, Josh’s mood can only worsen when JB falls for the new girl in her pink Reeboks; with both his hair and the company of his brother taken from him, Josh loses his temper during a game and hits his brother in the face with a ball so hard he nearly breaks JB’s nose. Their mother suspends Josh from the team, leaving him more free time to worry about his father’s failing health — and the fact that his father refuses to see a doctor.


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Alexander’s poetry flies across the page. Moments can be slow and contemplative, or words can explode, grow, smash together, and slide around as Josh describes the game he plays. The story progresses at a good clip, and the passage of time marked by holidays and the food shared is a powerful way to return readers to the thought of food and how it affects the family.


This is a fantastic book; writing a novel in verse is not easy, and this book is gorgeous. The action, the thought behind those actions, and the characters themselves are brought to life. I would recommend this to any reader; sports fans may love the play-by-play details, but anyone can enjoy the poetry.


Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be fantastic for a poetry unit. Readers can also make poems out of alphabet soup and cookies, adding a 3-D level to the poetry creation. Students can also go out into the school community for fifteen minutes and just listen, then come back and write a poem incorporating when they heard on campus; Alexander uses this onomatopoeic technique frequently, and those are always exciting poems to read. (Ideas from myself).


Grade Level: 5-8


Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2015

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 2/1/14

Coretta Scott King Author Honor, 2015

Kirkus Reviews starred 1/15/14

Library Media Connection starred 8/1/14

Newbery Medal, 2015

Publishers Weekly starred 1/20/14

School Library Journal starred 3/1/14

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 8/1/14


Reviews referenced:

Clarke, T. (n. d.). The crossover (Review of the book The Crossover). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from

Kirkus Reviews. (2013, Dec. 18). The crossover (Review of the book The Crossover). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from

Vardan, E. (2015, Apr. 26). The crossover by Kwame Alexander  |  Book review (Review of the book The Crossover). The Children’s Book Review. Retrieved from


Booked by Kwame Alexander

Alexander, Kwame. Booked. Puffin Books, 2016. 336 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-0-544-57098-6; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-51817-158-1


TL;DR: Do I Recommend This? YES


Genre: Novel in Verse


Part of a series? No, but very similar to another Alexander novel, The Crossover.


Plot Summary:

Nick has a lot on his plate — he’s a superstar soccer player in his club, he wants desperately to ask out April from his etiquette class (which will be difficult, since all he has managed is a strangled “hello”), and he is being forced to read and memorize his father’s dictionary of obscure words. Life gets more exciting as his soccer team receives an invitation to play in a major tournament in Dallas … as does his best friend, co-captain of his rival team. Then his parents announce they are separating. Mr. Mac the librarian tries to recruit Nick for the book club, and Nick keeps getting into trouble for zoning off in English class. When a medical emergency forces Nick to stay home from the tournament, life as he knows it is over. Or is it?


Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a marvelous novel in verse about soccer, middle school life, and reading.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

The action flies — the poems capture Nick’s feelings, thoughts, and actions on the soccer field. It’s a great read for anyone — bookworms, soccer fans, and reluctant readers. This could be a fun book club book or poetry unit read. (Idea from myself)


Grade Level: 6 and up


Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 2/1/16

Horn Book Guide starred 10/1/16

Horn Book Magazine starred 3/1/16

Kirkus Reviews starred 1/15/16

Publishers Weekly Annex starred 3/7/16

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 4/1/16


Review referenced:

Kitsap (WA) Regional Library YA Book Group. (2016, Apr. 12). Teens review the latest from Kwame Alexander, Deb Caletti, and more (blog post). School Library Journal. Retrieved from